World War II affected my life
in an undramatic way . . .
Lois Smyres

Neither my father nor any of my uncles was in the military. My dad was married and had two children and was a farmer, which was considered an essential occupation. He raised sugar beets, alfalfa, corn, beef, and hogs.

After the war began, the government built an ammunition depot east of Pueblo on the Santa Fe Railroad line. When the government chose the site, the land included a dry-land ranch that was owned by my father and his brother. The house and barns were part of the land that was to be enclosed in the outside fence surrounding the depot. They were allowed ninety days to remove any buildings or equipment from the property.

My father bought two city lots in Boone and moved the barn and the ranch house onto these lots. He converted the barn into a house and rented both the barn house and the ranch house. The government paid he and my uncle $3 per acre for the ranch, but the check did not come until the war was over.

We were not homeless. My dad had built a house for our family on an irrigated farm jointly owned with his brother and run by his brother. My mother and dad had decided to move from the ranch to the farm because my brother would soon be old enough to start school and there was no school close enough for him to attend. From the farm Lee had only to walk a quarter mile to catch a school bus. Our family moved to the farm in 1939. That year my father bought a new tractor, and in 1940 he bought a new Plymouth.

Our family used ration coupons, but we were not as inconvenienced as many people were by food and supply shortages. When the war started, the Holly Sugar Company gave one hundred pounds of sugar to each of the farmers who raised sugar beets for them. My mother raised chickens and grew a garden. We had a cow, which supplied us with dairy products, and a steer was butchered when we needed meat. Farmers received an extra allotment of gasoline to run their tractors and other farm machinery. Tires may have been a problem, but with a new tractor and car, probably not a big one.

There was a labor shortage and it was impossible to find workers to work in the fields. The Holly Sugar Company brought Navajos from the Four Corners area to the farms to work in the sugar beet fields. The housing shortage was a problem for the people working at the ammunition depot. On the farm was an old house built by the man who originally homesteaded the property. My uncle had lived there when he ran the farm, but moved into the house with our family after the ranch was sold. My father rented the old house and the two houses in Boone to ammunition depot workers.

An Army air base was located nearby and bomber crews trained there. Chinese Nationalists were brought to the Pueblo Airbase for training. It is said that Clark Gable also trained there. However, he stayed in a hotel in Pueblo and not in the barracks.

My husband tells about being aware of the war, because he watched the newsreels at the movies. We didn’t live near a city and didn’t go to the movies. My only memory of soldiers was when I rode a train with my mother to Kansas for the funeral of her aunt. The train was filled with soldiers, and my mother and I had to sit on our suitcase in the aisle.

After the war ended and I had started school, the ammunition depot began destroying ammunition by exploding it, rocking the school and houses for miles around. The boom and blasts from the destruction of the ammunition brought the war closer to me than anything that had happened during the war.

Lois Smyres grew up in eastern Colorado. She attended the University of Colorado, San Francisco State University, the College of Marin, and the University of Nevada, Reno. She is married to Gary Smyres, and they have three children. Before retiring in 1999, Lois worked as a librarian at Getchell Library of the University of Nevada, Reno.

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